Derived from the Greek word ‘sapphirus,’ is the birthstone for September and the gemstone traditionally given for a fifth, twenty-third or forty-fifth wedding anniversary. The cool blue sapphire marks the season’s shift from summer to autumn. To those born in the transitional month of September, it is thought to harness relaxing energy and clear the mind, in so doing, protecting its owner from fraud, envy, and ill health.
Although often considered synonymous with the color blue, sapphires are so much more, earning the term ‘fancy’ sapphires by ranging in color from the desirable padparadja to pink, green, yellow, orange and purple. All sapphires and rubies, irrespective of color, belong to the corundum family, the pink variety of which is defined by a fine color-differentiating line, separating pink sapphires from red rubies.
The ancient Persians called the sapphire a ‘Celestial Stone’ believing the earth rested upon a huge sapphire, reflecting its color, in so doing, turning the sky blue. The Greeks regarded sapphire as sacred to the god Apollo and the stone was traditionally worn when attending the oracle of Apollo’s shrine. The Greek wise-men understood what seafarers had broadcast for millenia, that sapphires protected one across the water. Buddhists believe that ‘a sapphire symbolically opens a closed door through which to hear the sweet bells of peace’ while the Hebrews made mention of sapphire as one of the gems on Aaron’s Breastplate in the Book of Exodus.
During the Middle Ages, sapphires were believed to represent the purity of the soul and priests who were expected to remain celibate, wore them as a means of protection from possible ‘temptations of the flesh’. In Medieval Europe, a widely held belief persisted, that sapphires were particularly beneficial to the eyes resulting in the thirteenth century’s Bartholomew Angelicus describing this gemstone as: ‘The sapphire is a precious stone, blue in color and similar to heaven in fair weather; is best amongst precious stones and most apt to fingers of kings’.
Last but not least, a fascinating point which might be of interest to gentlemen ‘on the verge’ of proposing and hesitant about their choice of engagement rings: there exists extensive literature on the characteristic of sapphire as a gemstone used for testing the fidelity of a spouse, as it was believed to change color if the marriage partner (mostly female!) committed infidelity. Many cultures throughout the world continue to believe that ‘sapphire refuses to shine for the unchaste or impure’!
In addition to testing one’s loyalty, sapphires have also been credited with amuletic powers. In his book ‘Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems’, the historian W. Pavitt writes that the wife of Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) possessed a powerful talisman composed of two rough sapphires and a piece of the True Cross made to preserve and strengthen Charlemagne’s affections towards her. It was so effective that his love for her endured long after her death, after which he ordered her talisman to be removed from her body and entrusted to the Archbishop of Mains and the Chancellor of the Empire. As Charlemagne suffered in his deathbed, the talisman was given to him and he was able to pass away peacefully!